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 Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?

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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

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PostSubject: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptyFri May 25, 2012 11:15 pm

I began writing around the age of nine on a manual typewriter that a friend gave me. As an undergraduate in college, I wrote an average of 18 papers per semester for my gloriously "writing intensive" classes before the term was coined using an electric typewriter and small amounts of White-out. Deprived of an online library, email, Internet access and, of course, a personal computer since none had yet been invented, I soldiered on quite nicely, maintaining both a solid level of productivity and a healthy, active social life.

My first book was written on a PC Clone that I built from parts using WordStar for DOS and a dot-matrix printer built sturdier than a Sherman tank. (I still have a working copy of DOS 5.0 and WordStar 3.3 in my Compaq transportable computer that belongs in the Smithsonian but works just fine, blissfully oblivious of its obsolescence.)

I was happy and truly productive with my DOS-based desktops, transportables and laptops. Then came Windows in increasingly bloated and buggy versions, and the Mac, and the Internet and I now I have a ridiculous amounts of technology in every room of my house and at work. But am I really any more productive, and is my writing, in particular my fiction and poetry, any better? I honestly don't know. I could write faster, more efficiently and without any distractions using my first PC and all of my DOS-based machines prior to the invention of the Internet. That is not subject to debate. WordStar with its arcane commands and stiff learning curve allowed me to all the flexibility I needed to write quickly and efficiently without WYSIWYG, GUI, unnecessary graphics or five-minute bootups and endless daily software updates--and it did it all without ever requiring me to take my hands away from the keyboard. (I can still recall the arcane WordStar commands and can use my Compaq transportable with its massive 10 MB hard disk and 5.25" floppy drive any time I feel nostalgic.)

On balance, has technology truly improved our writing and productivity or has it simply become a crutch and a vehicle for endless creative time wasting in lieu of more productive endeavors such as, well, writing?

Any thoughts?
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Shelagh
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Shelagh

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 12:56 am

The daily software updates had practically ground my laptop to a halt. The spyware terminator software that was supposed to protect my computer from invasion was far more invasive than anything from which it was trying to protect me. Last night, I lost patience with it and removed it entirely. Now I can go onto the 'net at speed and zoom around in a way that had become impossible. So, no, new technology is not all good, and it can be an absolute pest!

_________________
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Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 4:35 am

Interesting subject, Victor. I agree with you and what Shelagh said.
I was thinking of making a post about new technology and how much of it I simply hate.
I just tried using my bathroom weight scale. The battery is dead. In the old days, they were spring operated. Same with wristwatches and alarm clocks. You wound them up and they worked just fine. Now one requires battery cells, the disposal of which if not done properly, harms the environment. Thing were made to last longer. Self-repairs were possible. Working on a car was a fun thing. With the new technology and electronics, that is no longer possible. Costly repairs means they just replace things and throw away the old. As for PC's, I too built my second one and was in the business of assembling PC for a US firm. Parts were available, including mother boards, RAM, etc., and one could upgrade when required.
I learned typing in school with the hard-punching keys. Manual typewriters didn't require electricity and they too could be repaired. Then came the throw-away society with products not made to last. Styrofoam cups, paper plates, plastic utensils, etc., that are now a big polluter.
We all enjoy new technology, but could do without most of it. Being self-reliant was possible, today that option is rare.
New techlology has elimated many jobs, i.e., Robots replacing humans in the service-sector. What will happen when we are so automated that people can no long find employment? Older folk are not easily re-trainable or even employable. And to top that off, they don't want to provide for the old. I'm no longer young. I still want my independence and sel-reliance. When that is no longer possible, they might just as well shoot me. Being a vegetable is not my idea of living.
If I sound pissed, then I'm still able to convey a thought.
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alj
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alj

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Age : 76
Location : San Antonio

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 5:45 am

I've had the same experiences, Shelagh, with anti-virus software taking over and grinding my old laptop to a halt.

My computer geek son suggested the free version of Avast. It's all I use now, and works much better without being nearly as intrusive. That laptop is still very slow, though. 500 mgs of RAM just won't cut it with today's programs.

My old PC came - literally - to a grinding halt, as well. My son thinks it was a bad fan, but for once I'm not sure I agree with him. It was making this loud noise (and no, it wasn't the hard drive) and would just shut down. It, too, had about 500 mgs of RAM.

This new little netbook works much faster - it has 1 gig of Ram, with space to add more, which my son says I will probably need before too long. The nicest thing about it is that it cost me just a bit over $300, which makes it the cheapest since my son's original Vic20 back in the early 80's. (And the funds came from the Christmas gift cards I got from my kids to use for just this purpose.) When the small screen starts to bother me, I can connect the netbook to my old flat screen monitor and see just fine.

The biggest problem with it was learning to use to Windows 7 and Office 2010. I was very comfortable with XP and 2003. It took me a couple of months to readjust.

I think it's part of planned obsolescence. If they don't keep making "upgrades" they won't be able to sell so many new machines.

One thing, Victor. This new computer came with "starter" versions of Windows and Office that work perfectly for my needs. I doubt that I will be upgrading either of them anytime soon. The problem is, you can't buy them. They are only sold to the computer manufacturers. It seems to me that the upgrades just provide a lot of toys. I have discovered that I really didn't need that wallpaper changer that provided me with a different view of Enchanted Rock every 15 minutes. The soft blue background with the faded white windows logo has become quite peaceful. I did miss the "reader" format in word, until I discovered how easy it was to save a PDF version, which makes reading and notating my research files easier than the old reader mode ever did.

I like having the Internet to use for much of my research, and I like being able to store the researched material on the computer rather than have file cabinets full of print-outs that I had a hard time organizing well enough to find things when I needed them, and the office filled with so many bookshelves that I couldn't add another filing cabinet if I wanted to.. Even now that I've switched to writing fiction, I find I still need to do vast amounts of research, and I need to have it available where I can review it frequently. I also like the advanced graphics that are available on the newer computers. I find I can write descriptions easily when I have the pictures in front of me. I agree that DOS was fine for word-processing. I could type almost as fast on my old selectric, but I do so many rewrites and make so many changes and drafts that I wouldn't want to go back to that technology.

I've had two cars during the last twenty years. When the '91 Escort finally died on me in '02, I was disappointed to find that Ford had stopped making them, but the salesman was right when he reassured me that the Focus would last as well. I still think of her as my "new" car.

I tend to be the same way with other stuff, from houses to washing machines - and computers. When I do have to replace stuff, I generally prefer new over used, though. It lasts longer that way.

I hope that this new worldview we seem to be moving into will include sustainability as well as simplicity, but at the same time, I hope they let me keep my iphone and internet.

Balance in all things. Very Happy

Abe, we were writing at the same time.

Ann
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joefrank
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joefrank

Number of posts : 8210
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Age : 71
Location : Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 7:48 am

5/26/2012

Everyone..

I agree ! Bt I don't miss the manual typewriter, nor

the electric typewriter...I love writing on the computer because

you can instantly erase your errors or change a whole page in a

flash and I can keep files on my photography...

Cheers..Joe..Very Happy
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 7:49 am

I wrote my first several books with Wordstar on a PC clone in the mid 1980s. Once typed, it became an endless paper trail. Manuscript, edits, galleys, and page proofs were exchanged in reams of paper going cross-country via snail mail.

Writers and publishers are a lot more productive now thanks to technology.

Research: How did we live without the Internet and google? James A. Michener wrote that when he started a new book he budgeted $100,000 and a year for research to travel places and gather information. Now we don't have to leave our offices.

Editing: One of the best parts is the edit. We use Word's track changes and comments features. Many editors require that it be done that way. So much easier than retyping marked-up corrections (and introducing more errors). The spellchecker makes editing a lot more accurate now, too.

Production: Typesetting is way more efficient now. Indesign and Quark are a lot less cumbersome than the Linotype machine. POD makes possible small print runs for niche books.

And then there's the e-book.

Yeah, technology has improved the lives of the writer and publisher immeasurably. I wouldn't return to the good old days for anything except the sex.

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alice
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alice

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 8:19 am

You couldn't pay me to go back to the before PC days.
For my Final project in Accounting I had to do a 29 page report. All I had was a manual typewriter, paper and white- out. My kitchen floor was littered with the rejects. What a scene!

A PC would have made the project so simple. Excel would have made me so happy.
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alj
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alj

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 10:08 am

One little oddity:

My old laptop does not like this site. I had almost forgotten.

There are a few programs that I still prefer to use from this machine, mostly having to do with creating graphic files - like covers for books, etc.

I am much more comfortable working with the older versions because I am a lousy artist.

I have some visuals that I need to work on before my book can go any farther, so here I am. I got some emails re conversations here that I wanted to have a voice in, so I came here to do that.

It seems to be the volume of ads. It takes forever for a page to load, and then, it freezes up while I try to write a response.

I am sure the ultimate problem is a lack of RAM, but it illustrates the problem: The demand for space by competing programs is one of the most basic problems right now.

How many times have I repeated the word, problem in this one response? Rolling Eyes
Ann
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Shelagh
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Shelagh

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 12:03 pm

Houston we've had a problem here. Anyone got a spare hose pipe and a coathanger to get this forum back into cyberspace?

_________________
Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 41ZdcL0lV7L._SL125_ Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 41C9GeFDNWL._SL125_ Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SL125_ Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 51eDGllZXhL._SL125_ Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 41y7VHKoszL._SL125_ Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 51Zs4N4T4eL._SL125_
Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins 2017
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alj
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alj

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 12:14 pm

Not my "problem" for the moment. I did my old laptop graphics thing and am back with the new little lady, who functions just fine.

Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? 733985

My recommendation - do not try to accomplish anything online with less than one gig of RAM.

Ann
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dmondeo
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dmondeo

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 12:23 pm

AVG free version and the free version of Comodo firewall is I use. This is a good combination because Comodo also picks off the odd spyware.
The paid for Anti Virus programs I've used in the past like McAffee and Norton tend to take over your whole system and slow it down.
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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 1:04 pm

Please don't misunderstand me, folks. I will not give up any of my toys and do not pine for my manual typewriter. I was questioning only whether the quality of writing is better for the technology, and whether our productivity is higher.

I remember what is was like doing legal research in a law library. No thanks to that trip down memory lane. But how much time (and money) do we waste browsing the web, checking our sales on Amazon, posting meaningless things (not here, of course . . . never!) all over cyberspace as opposed to focusing on our writing? And how much money do we spend constantly updating the technology to keep the programs we need from slowing to a snail's space? And learning the new-and-improved versions of new software that neither look nor work like their predecessors--are you listening, Microsoft?

Nor is the issue limited to writing. How much productivity is wasted in every office every day by people doing everything other than what they are being paid to do? (Shopping, viewing movies, listening to music, writing friends, viewing porn . . .)

When I was putting together selected poetry from the past 35 years or so for a book last summer, the old stuff on paper was intact. More than half of the poetry I've written, however, is lost forever due to catastrophic crashes, viruses and faulty tape backup devices with data that could not be retrieved. The same is true for my short stories. And my first novel. All were backed up on then state-of-the-art tape systems that malfunctioned, perhaps due to the same viruses that caused at least one of the crashes. Do you think I put my stuff or faith in "the cloud?" I never got back to my novel, by the way. I intend to, but I'm too busy surfing the web and backing up my data to 29,573 different places.

At any rate. I just wanted to invite some commentary--just another way to avoid doing any real work courtesy of technology and your wonderful company.
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alj
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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 1:55 pm

When I'm writing poetry, Victor, I usually write it with a pencil, in a paper journal. I still keep them for jotting down my ideas and when I want to just let my words come out naturally. It has been a while since the poetry juices were flowing, though.

A year ago, I would have told you that I use journals for all my creative work, but I have finally learned to create on the computer. Maybe I'm getting lazy; maybe it's the arthritis, or maybe I am finally adjusting, but I have switched to composing prose at least on the computer. It is faster, because I don't have to transcribe everything. Much has to do with this new netbook. I finally have a machine that I can work on comfortably, with a ergonomic keyboard that fits my hands. My only problem, still, is the number of typos, especially when I am on "autopilot." Having a program that catches and corrects those errors is a good thing for me.

A year or so ago, I downloaded a free software program for writing novels called yWriter, which has made organizing my work so much easier.

As far as losing work goes, I keep everything backed up, on both an external hard drive and in Google docs.

Anyway, my productivity is much higher now, especially as I learn to just let go and type. As for quality - I don't know. Others would have to decide that. The yWriter helps me to stay focused and organized, and that, for me at least, is necessary for longer creative works.

I sometimes wish that I still had the old journals. I tossed them years ago, for personal reasons, but I wonder if the words I wrote then would be the words I write today. I doubt it. I am a different person. I do have hard copies of some of the poems, and most of the first novel I wrote. For the most part, they may turn out to be some good source material, but they are not the works that I would produce at this time.

Ann



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Shelagh
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Shelagh

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 2:44 pm

Keeping backups on Google docs is a good suggestion (they'll give us fair warning if they go belly-up and we can then transfer everything to Huddle or Docstoc). My email has crashed twice removing all my stored messages on my computer. However, every email I send and receive is backed up online. My Sky email account allows me 10,736 MB storage and is currently 19% full -- 21,184 messages stored. I have every email sent and received from all the contributors to the anthologies and all the author interviewees. I have the original submissions, the first draft after editing and the final PDFs that were sent out to every author. All the submissions to the next anthology are stored online and waiting to be read. One of my Facebook friends said that I work at the speed of light -- I wish!

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Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins 2017
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alice
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alice

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 2:57 pm

Google is a great idea--they are my neighbor.
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alj
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alj

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 6:19 pm

I've been at my computers most of the day today. Another kind of technology has been going in the background: BBC America is running a marathon of The Tudors.

Just a few moments ago, I heard something I think fits here.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as Henry the Eighth, just asked, "What in hell is that?"
The answer was, "That, Your Majesty, is a printing press. It is going to change the world."

Ann
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alice
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alice

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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySat May 26, 2012 9:26 pm

... and that change was for the better. Very Happy
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity?   Does technology help/hurt writing quality and productivity? EmptySun May 27, 2012 1:03 pm

Anyone who ever had to index a book manually will embrace technology passionately.
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